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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 24 - 30, 2003


Yoga unites mind,
body spirit in the valley

Studios also move together

Express Staff Writer

In the quest for increased balance, strength and flexibility, yoga has taken off as a popular way to build better physical and spiritual health. Instructors in the Wood River Valley say they consistently find willing students.

Some like Cathie Caccia, who helped Mariel Hemingway start the Sacred Cow Yoga Studio, have had serious "devotees" for many years through athletic clubs, yoga studios and even private lessons.

"Richard Odom is the original instructor in the area," said Caccia, who has been teaching here for 16 years. "He is truly the grandfather of yoga in the valley." Odom teaches at the Sun Valley Athletic Club.

"Overall the interest continues to grow," said freelance instructor Amy Clifford, who specializes in Nada yoga, a kind of therapeutic sound yoga that incorporates Sanskrit chanting. She combines it with the physical poses yoga beginners recognize more readily.

"It is not just a fad," she said. Overall there are more women, but yoga is growing with different parts of the community. All ages participate. People are taking it because it makes them feel better."

Part of the interest may be that yoga studios offer a welcoming type of environment. Instructors strive to make yoga accessible and comfortable.

A recent Wall Street Journal article on high-end yoga mats quotes a Harris Interactive poll that estimates the number of people who "practiced" yoga in the U.S. last year at 15 million.

The poll was released by the Yoga Journal in June 2003 and is the latest in a series of statistics that have pegged yoga practitioners anywhere from less than 10 million to 28 million. The Yoga Journal poll may be self-serving because the magazine thrives on advertising and the June publication of the survey results comes right before the high-circulation issues of the fall. But there is certainly growing interest in the study, even if yoga statistics may be skewed and methodologies for collecting them are inconsistent.

In the Wood River Valley there are a number of telephone numbers for Yoga listed, but some addresses are changing. The athletic clubs still offer yoga, but there are also two studios dedicated to the practice in Ketchum. The Yoga Shala at Numinosity is closing and the Sacred Cow Yoga Studio is absorbing any unfulfilled punch cards until the end of the year. Sacred Cow has also signed a lease in Hailey for space in the building that used to house Gateway Yoga. It has been dubbed Sacred Cow South.

"It is not just practiced in the athletic clubs. There is an interesting fusion happening that might be helpful," said Clifford. The valley is not big enough to have umpteen yoga studies. Although yoga is growing there is a nice mix overall and it is integrating more deeply into the community."

The focus around fewer locations helps make the quest for the right type of yoga less confusing for people trying to get into it, Clifford said. Instructors all know each other and some work for athletic clubs, the studios and give private lessons.

Even as more people look to yoga for their spiritual journey, for many it is unclear what yoga is.

"It is not just about exercise," said Sacred Cow founder, Mariel Hemingway, who explained that for people new to yoga, sorting through all the different forms of healing practices can feel a little like "spiritual window shopping. Yoga is about the connection of mind, body and spirit."

One thing is certain. Yoga is not about what a person can do over the weekend. The origin of the practice comes from India and goes back over 5000 years

Most Westerners identify yoga with Hatha yoga. Hatha is a combination of the words "Ha" and "Tha" or sun and moon and refers to the integration of opposites. The practice that integrates "strong" and "soft movements seeks to promote health and well-being through physical exercise.

The regular practice of postures, and breathing exercises function to make the body strong, supple and healthy. It improves circulation and the functioning of the inner organs, glands and nerves, helping to keep all systems healthy and leading to greater energy, better concentration, and overall a happier, more fulfilling life, explained Sacred Cow manager Pilar Settlemier.

Many practitioners claim common physical ailments can also be improved through the regular practice of yoga.

"Hatha or ‘movement Yoga’ is the umbrella form," Settlemier said. "There are different forms developed by different teachers."

Such is the case with Bikram Yoga. The form of "hot yoga" has the signature of Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India.

Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began yoga at the age of 4 and eventually won the National India Yoga contest. Undefeated for three years, Choudhury became well known and eventually developed a style that reflects his competitive beginnings and is marketed around the world.

Instruction in Bikram Yoga is provided in Ketchum by Jessica Soine and Matt Filoon.

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises designed to provide a total body workout. It is a 90-minute class.

"Yoga is a big open term," said Settlemier. "Teachers are copy writing their own thing."

Bikram is one form practiced in the valley. Students can also find other popular approaches to yoga, such as Iyengar yoga, named for another Indian teacher. Instructors also define their particular approach to the study with more basic Asana or movement designations like Ashtanga, Hatha and Anasara yoga.

A prospective can benefit from shopping around, said Settlemier. "All are on the same path. Everyone has a different way that works for them."

Whether looking for a great workout, reducing stress, alleviating symptoms of injuries, or seeking a spiritual journey, yoga in the valley has something to offer.

"It’s nice to see how yoga has grown and blossomed," said Caccia. "It is a great thing for the community."



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